The authorities of Novi Pazar, a town in south-western Serbia, declared Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan an honorary citizen on Friday, during a week-long celebration of the town’s 557th anniversary.
Erdoǧan was honoured for “his unselfish affirmation (of the town) and the investments in Novi Pazar’s infrastructure.
"It's our privilage to declare Erdoǧan an honorary citizen of Novi Pazar. We want to thank him with this symbolic gesture for everything he has done so far for our town. We wish that our friendship last in the years to come,” Nihat Bisevac, the mayor of Novi Pazar, said.
Erdoǧan thus joined Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic who was declared a Novi Pazar’s honorary citizen three years ago.
Local authorities also awarded the Norwegian envoy to Serbia Arne Sannes Bjørnstad and university’s professors Sait Kacapor and Rodoljub Niciforovic with the municipal charter.
Novi Pazar, with less than 70,000 inhabitants in its urban part, mostly Bosniaks, i.e. Muslims by religion, is the main town in the region of Sandzak, that the Belgrade authorities call Raska District, which is its official administrative name.
The town’s name appeared on April 20, 1461 in a document in the town of Dubrovnik, now in Croatia.
Novi Pazar’s founder was Isa-bay, a Turkish military commander, who is also credited with establishing the city of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Skopje in Macedonia and the town of Sabac in Serbia.
Belgrade and some Bosniaks' leaders in Novi Pazar are often at odds since the Bosniaks say their institutional representation does not reflect their percentage in the general population, as it should be according to the Constitution and respective laws. Most of their complaints are about police and judiciary treatment of Bosniaks.
Serbia’s authorities deny any deliberate and ethnically motivated treatment.